Although likely be named the Diamondbacks’ fifth starter, left-hander Robbie Ray hit a few roadblocks. These haunted him in the past, and continue to trouble the power pitcher. In attempting to address some of the maladies during his Wednesday start, Ray’s latest audition for that final slot in the rotation did not stand well.
Going forward, Ray could be named as the fifth starter, but this could be by default. That’s because no other pitcher has risen to draw any attention nor provide competition. In effect, Ray’s outing Wednesday afternoon against the Giants at Salt River was the kind of microcosm which plagued the left-hander last season.
Coming into spring training, Ray established two criteria for refinement. One dealt with pounding the strike zone, and getting a first-pitch strike. As important, Ray said he wanted to lower his pitch count, which ran inordinately high for most of his 2015 starts.
Neither were adequately addressed against the Giants. Pulled after four innings, Ray’s pitch count hit 85, and, though he retired the side in order during the first inning, he missed getting the first pitch in for a stroke on each hitter.
“Robbie was not locating, and that was an issue for him last season,” manager Chip Hale said. “Because of that, his pitch count was up and he continues to work on stuff.”
In giving up four runs in four innings of work, Ray allowed three extra-base hits, including two home runs from Brandon Belt, the Giants’ left-handed first baseman. For his outing, Ray gave up five hits, four runs, the most in any outing this spring, and walked two hitters.
By the time he was lifted, Ray’s pitch count reached into the nid-80s, but Hale thought about putting the lefty into the fifth inning. Deciding against that move, Ray was lifted after those four in his most questionable start of the spring. Because his Wednesday outing could have been interpreted as a set-back, Hale defaulted any question about Ray’s future. Instead of anointing the native of Brentwood, Tenn. to the starting slot, Hale and other Arizona decision-makers have put off that decision for another day.
“Robbie needs to locate early in the count,” Hale added. “That way, he cuts down on the pitch count.”
That ended the conversation, and now it’s up to Ray, who pointed out all spring, areas to elevate his game. To date, Ray still needs to convince Hale he is worthy of the final, rotation slot.
On the diamond Wednesday, the Diamondbacks came-from-behind and defeated the San Francisco Giants, 10-6 before another sell-out crowd at Salt River. The attendance of 13,239 was the eighth straight capacity crowd for the Diamondbacks at home, and their ninth of the spring. Going forward, they have three dates remaining this spring at Salt River.
A pinch three-run home run from Jake Lamb in the fourth inning, and Jason Bourgeois’ inside-the-park, three-run homer in the fifth powered the win. Chris Owings, battling for the starting job at second, led off the game with a home run over the left field fence, and added a triple and walk.
PASSING OF A LEGEND
On Wednesday, the Diamondbacks reacted to the death of baseball icon Joe Garagiola. At 90-years-old, Garagiola passed away early Wednesday, and the Diamondbacks offered a moment of silence before their game at Salt River.
“Joe was family and considered the Diamondbacks as much a part of his family as his hometown Cardinals,” said Derrick Hall, the Diamondbacks CEO. “We lost a great man of character, and he had a tremendous impact on all of us. He was so humble that he didn’t know how big a personality he really was. He showed us all how to live your life the right way.”
Garagiola played nine seasons in the majors with the Cardinals (1946-51), the Pirates (1951-53), the Cubs (1953 and 54), and the New York Giants in 1954. Following his baseball career, Garagiola moved into television and maintained contributions to NBC’s game-of-the-week, The Today Show, and broadcaster for the Diamondbacks through the 2013 season.
The broadcast wing and TV booth at Chase Field was named after Garagiola in 2009. Later, Joe Garagiola Field was dedicated in Flagstaff in 2012.
Yogi Berra, his long-time friend and neighbor from their home town of St. Louis, once paid tribute. Berra was quoted, “not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street.”
On Thursday, minor league left-hander Anthony Banda gets the start for Arizona against the Padres at Peoria. San Diego will counter with right-hander Colin Rea. Normally, this would be Zack Greinke’s turn in the rotation, but the heralded right-hander will pitch Thursday during a minor league game.
The Diamondbacks return to Salt River Friday afternoon (1:10 p.m.) and take on the Cleveland Indians. Right-hander Shelby Miller will start for Arizona and look for former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (3-0, 0.64 this spring) to start for the Tribe.